Freelancing not free of gender discrimination

Published on May 7, 2021 by

Women freelancers in India face the brunt of the pandemic. Data suggests women accounted for only 20 percent of new registrations in online based freelancing in India.

By Shreya Asopa | March 30th, 2021


Bengaluru: The covid -19 pandemic has driven the demand for freelancers higher in India. Despite the increase in new freelance registrations in the online freelancing platforms, the number of women freelancers is comparatively less than men.


Data from Flexing It, a consulting firm where freelancers register themselves, shows that only 20 percent of women freelancers in India have registered for freelancing during the pandemic.


Akshay Kumar Murali, the owner of Enginiomatic Technologies, said, “I have been hiring freelancers for the past two years. Now, I am witnessing a trend of more men applying for freelancing than women, especially in the development sector, like in tech development and building apps.”


The Tandem report on Women in the Gig Economy in India shows that even in freelancing there is a high level of gender-related occupational segregation and an increase in financial insecurity.


Juhi D, an ex-freelancer, said, “The shifts of my freelancing were different. I wanted to work during the day, but then the clients were asking to do night shifts and finish the project. It was the work from home effect, and my client was not co-operating. It was also hard to negotiate for my overtime as the project rates were fixed.”


The rise in unemployment has increased freelancing and gig jobs, but at the same time, women are struggling to sustain themselves as they have to choose priorities related to home care and career.


The internet density data by the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5) showed only 42 percent of women in India use the internet. As freelancing becomes reliant on technology, the limited access may reduce their participation. 


Poonam M., a freelance dance instructor said, “Before the pandemic, I used to take five to six classes per week but after the pandemic, it all stopped. I wanted to take online classes but it was very difficult for me as I was tied down by household chores.”


Ipshita Sen, the founder of Engendered Co., said, “Many freelancing women do not work full-time as they do it along with their other jobs. It is like pocket money and the attitude towards women freelancers are different to that of men freelancers.” She also added that factors like price negotiation and the way women perceive themselves in terms of work policy, also affect their participation in freelancing.

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